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Energy autonomy in sustainable communities - a review of key issues

Rae, Callum and Bradley, Fiona (2012) Energy autonomy in sustainable communities - a review of key issues. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 16 (9). pp. 6497-6506. ISSN 1364-0321

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Recent years have seen the successful development and deployment of a range of small scale renewable energy systems. Driven in part by improving technical capability and by ambitious carbon emissions reduction targets, there has been the beginning of a shift towards a more distributed energy generation model, capable of delivering a range of potential benefits, but also presenting a number of social and technical challenges. One area of society where the benefits can be seen as being both highly applicable and highly relevant is at the community level and at this scale in particular, increased levels of energy autonomy can deliver a host of social, financial and environmental benefits. Therefore, the concept of energy autonomy is widely regarded as an effective tool in the push towards sustainable development, with 'sustainable communities' often highlighted as particularly relevant for applying its principles. Given its significance and its broad interdisciplinary relevance, the issue, and the challenges it poses, has been the subject of a significant level of research interest in recent years. This study therefore presents a state of the art review of current research relating to energy autonomy in sustainable communities and identifies a number of central issues which are regarded as being of critical importance. Demand Side Management is identified as one particular area in need of further research and development, along with the need for receptive social, political and regulatory environments.